Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria Will Build a Massive New Building as Part of a $1 Billion Overhaul of the Local Arts District

The new facility will rival Tate Modern in scale.

A bird's eye view of the Melbourne Arts Precinct from Southbank Boulevard facing north (artist impression). Architects Hassell + SO-IL. Courtesy National Gallery of Victoria.

The National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, received a pledge of government support on Tuesday that will allow it to forge ahead with a campaign for a new building that will make it Australia’s largest museum.

The project is part of a AU$1.4 billion ($1 billion) project to overhaul the Southbank Arts District, reports the Guardian. (The budget for the National Gallery project itself has not yet been announced.)

At upwards of 323,000 square feet, the new facility will allow the National Gallery to host its burgeoning visitorship, which doubled to three million in 2019. It will be almost as large as Tate Modern, points out the Sydney Morning Herald, and double the size of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

What now lies ahead? “The biggest philanthropic campaign ever run by us,” the museum’s director, Tony Ellwood, told the Herald.

The museum is launching a competition, restricted to Australian architects, to design the new building, which will be devoted to contemporary art, design, fashion, and architecture shows.

“On behalf of the people of Victoria, I’d like to thank the Victorian Government for their extraordinary commitment to creating this vital cultural asset for Victoria,” Ellwood said in a statement. “NGV Contemporary will form an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s creative and cultural identity, a universal civic space where visitors can gather, socialize, learn and interpret our world through a year-round presentation of exhibitions and programs that reflect contemporary life and culture.”

Launched in 2017, the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial brought in some 1.23 million visitors, making it the museum’s highest-attended show. It wasn’t without controversy, however. Artists including Candice Breitz, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Richard Mosse protested against the museum for employing Wilson Security, a firm that was accused of abusing refugees held in the country’s offshore migrant detention centers. The actions started with an open letter from the Artists’ Committee, an informal association of Australian artists.

The new space will allow the museum to host blockbuster shows, fashion exhibitions, an exhibition of the architecture of the new museum itself, and large-scale commissions from contemporary artists and designers.

The museum opened in 1861 and is already the country’s largest, with two buildings. It holds a collection of some 73,000 objects.

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